As autumn drew on the misery began to lessen. For the Indians, whose corn was now ripe, began to bring it to the fort to barter it for chisels, and beads, and other trifles. Wild fowl too, such as ducks and geese, swarmed in the river.
So with good food and cooler weather the sick soon began to mend. Energy returned to them, and once more they found strength to build and thatch their houses. And led by Smith they made many expeditions among the Indians, bringing back great stores of venison, wild turkeys, bread, and grain in exchange for beads, hatchets, bells and other knick-knacks.
But all the misery through which the colonists had passed had taught them nothing. They took no thought for the time to come when food might again be scarce. They took no care of it, but feasted daily on good bread, fish and fowl and "wild beasts as fat as we could eat them," says Smith.
Now one December day Smith set out on an exploring expedition up the Chickahominy River. It was a hard journey, for the river was so overgrown with trees that the men had to hew a path for the little vessel. At length the barque could go no further, so Smith left it, and went on in a canoe with only two Englishmen, and two Indians as guides.
For a time all went well. But one day he and his companions went ashore to camp. While the others were preparing a meal, Smith, taking one of the Indians with him, went on to explore a little further. But he had not gone far when he heard the wild, blood-curdling war whoop of the Indians. Guessing at once that they had come against him he resolved to sell his life as dearly as might be. So seizing the Indian guide he tied his arm fast to his own with his garters. Then with pistol in his right hand, and holding the Indian in front of him as a shield, he pushed as rapidly as he could in the direction of the camp.
Arrows flew round him thick and fast, but Smith's good buff coat turned them aside. The whole forest was alive with Indians, but although from the shelter of the trees they showered arrows upon Smith none dared approach him to take him. For they knew and dreaded the terrible fire stick which he held in his hand. Smith fired again and yet again as he retreated, and more than one Indian fell, never more to rise. He kept his eyes upon the bushes and trees trying to catch glimpses of the dusky figures as they skulked among them, and paid little heed to the path he was taking. So suddenly he found himself floundering in a quagmire.
Still he fought for dear life, and as long as he held his pistol no Redman dared come near to take him. But at length, chilled and wet, and half dead-with cold, unable to go further, he saw it was useless to resist longer. So he tossed away his pistol. At once the savages closed in upon and, dragging him out of the quagmire, led him to their chief.
Smith had given in because he knew that one man stuck in a quagmire could not hope to keep three hundred Indians long at bay. But he had sharp wits as well as a steady hand, and with them he still fought for his life. As soon as he was brought before the chief he whipped out his compass, and showing it to the chief, explained to him that it always pointed north, and thus the white men were able to find their way through the pathless desert.
To the Indians this seemed like magic; they marvelled greatly at the shining needle which they could see so plainly and yet not touch. Seeing their interest Smith went on to explain other marvels of the sun, and moon, and stars, and the roundness of the earth, until those who heard were quite sure he was a great "medicine man."
Thus Smith fought for his life. But at length utterly exhausted, he could say no more. So while the chief still held the little ivory compass, and watched the quivering needle, his followers led Smith away to his own camp fire. Here lay the other white men dead, thrust through with many arrows. And here the Indians warmed and chafed his benumbed body, and treated him with all the kindness they knew. But that brought Smith little comfort. For he knew it was the Indian way. A famous warrior might be sure of kindness at their hands if they meant in the end to slay him with awful torture.
And so, thoroughly warmed and restored, in less than an hour Smith found himself fast bound to a tree, while grim warriors, terribly painted, danced around him, bows and arrows in hand. They were about to slay him when the chief, holding up the compass, bade them lay down their weapons. Such a medicine man, he had decided, must not thus be slain. So Smith was unbound.
For some weeks Smith was marched hither and thither from village to village. He was kindly enough treated, but he never knew how long the kindness would last, and he constantly expected death. Yet he was quite calm. He kept a journal, and in this he set down accounts of many strange sights he saw, not knowing if indeed they would ever be read.
At length Smith was brought to the wigwam of the great Powhatan*, the chief of chiefs, or Emperor, as these simple English folk called him. To receive the white prisoner the Powhatan put on his greatest bravery. Feathered and painted, and wearing a wide robe of raccoon skins he sat upon a broad couch beside a fire. On either side of him sat one of his wives and behind in grim array stood his warriors, row upon row. Behind them again stood the squaws. Their faces and shoulders were painted bright red, about their necks they wore chains of white beads, and on their heads the down of white birds.
It was a weird scene, and the flickering firelight added to its strangeness. Silent and still as statues the warriors stood. Then as John Smith was led before the chief they raised a wild shout. As that died away to silence one of the Powhatan's squaws rose and brought a basin of water to Smith. In this he washed his hands, and then another squaw brought him a bunch of feathers instead of a towel, with which to dry them.
After this the Indians feasted their prisoner with savage splendour. Then a long consultation took place. What was said Smith knew not. He only knew that his life hung in the balance. The end of the consultation he felt sure meant life or death for him.
At length the long talk came to an end. Two great stones were placed before the chief. Then as many as could lay hands on Smith seized him, and dragging him to the stones, they threw him on the ground, and laid his head upon them. Fiercely then they brandished their clubs and Smith knew that his last hour had come, and that the Indians were about to beat out his brains.
But the raised clubs never fell, for with a cry Pocahontas, the chief's young daughter, sprang through the circle of warriors. She stood beside the prisoner pleading for his life. But the Indians were in no mood to listen to prayers for mercy. So seeing that all her entreaties were in vain she threw herself upon her knees beside Smith, put her arms about his neck, and laid her head upon his, crying out that if they would beat out his brains they should beat hers out too.
Of all his many children the Powhatan loved this little daughter best. He could deny her nothing. So Smith's life was saved. He should live, said the Powhatan, to make hatchets for him, and bells and beads for his little daughter.
Having thus been saved, Smith was looked upon as one of the tribe. Two days later he was admitted as such with fearsome ceremony.
Having painted and decorated himself as frightfully as he could, the Powhatan caused Smith to be taken to a large wigwam in the forest. The wigwam was divided in two by a curtain and in one half a huge fire burned. Smith was placed upon a mat in front of the fire and left alone. He did not understand in the least what was going on, and marvelled greatly what this new ceremony might mean. But he had not sat long before the fire when he heard doleful sounds coming from the other side of the curtain. Then from behind it appeared the Powhatan with a hundred others as hideously painted as himself, and told Smith that now that they were brothers he might go back to his fort.
So with twelve guides Smith set out. Yet in spite of all their feasting and ceremonies Smith scarcely believed in the friendship of the Indians, and no one was more surprised than himself when he at length reached Jamestown in safety.
*This chief's name was Wahunsunakok, the name of the tribe Powhatan and the English called the chief the Powhatan.
Chapter 14 - More Adventures of Captain John Smith
Smith had been away from the settlement nearly a month, and he returned to find the colony in confusion and misery. Many had died, and those who remained were quarrelling among themselves. Indeed some were on the point of deserting and sneaking off to England in the one little ship they had. They were not in the least pleased to see Smith return, and they resolved once more to get rid of him. So they accused him of causing the death of the two men who had gone with him, and condemned him to death. Thus Smith had only escaped from the hands of the Indians to be murdered by his own people.
The order went forth. He was to be hanged next day.
But suddenly all was changed, for a man looking out to sea saw a white sail. "Ship ahoy!" he shouted, "ship ahoy!"
At the joyful sound the, men forgot their bickerings, and hurrying to the shore welcomed the new arrival. It was Captain Newport with his long promised help. He soon put a stop to the hanging business, and also set poor Captain Wingfield free. For he had been kept prisoner ever since he had been deposed.
Newport had brought food for the colony, but he had also brought many new settlers. Unfortunately, too, one day the storehouse was set on fire, and much of the grain was destroyed. So that in spite of the new supplies the colony would soon again have been in the old starving condition had it not been for Pocahontas. She was resolved that her beloved white chief should want for nothing, and now every four or five days she came to the fort laden with provisions. Smith also took Captain Newport to visit the Powhatan, and great barter was made of blue beads and tinsel ornaments for grain and foodstuffs.
After a time Captain Newport sailed home again, taking the deposed President Wingfield with him. He took home also great tales of the savage Emperor's might and splendour. And King James was so impressed with what he heard that he made up his mind that the Powhatan should be crowned. So in autumn Captain Newport returned again to Jamestown, bringing with him more settlers, among them two women. He also brought a crown and other presents to the Powhatan from King James, together with a command for his coronation. So Smith made a journey to the Powhatan's village and begged him to come to Jamestown to receive his presents. But the Powhatan refused to go for he was suspicious and stood upon his dignity.
"If your King has sent me presents," he said, "I also am a king, and this is my land. Eight days will I wait here to receive them. Your Father Newport must come to me, not I to him."
So with this answer Smith went back, and seeing nothing else for it Captain Newport set out for the Powhatan's village with the presents. He did not in the least want to go, but the King had commanded that the Powhatan was to be crowned. And the King had to be obeyed. He arrived safely at Weronocomoco, and the next day was appointed for the coronation.
First the presents were brought out and set in order. There was a great four-poster bed with hangings and curtains of damask, a basin and ewer and other costly novelties such as never before had been seen in these lands.
After the gifts had been presented the Englishmen tried to place a fine red cloak on the Powhatan's shoulders. But he would not have it. He resisted all their attempts until at last one of the other chiefs persuaded him that it would not hurt him, so at last he submitted.
Next the crown was produced. The Powhatan had never seen a crown, and had no idea of its use, nor could he be made to understand that he must kneel to have it put on.
"A foul trouble there was," says one of the settlers who writes about it. No persuasions or explanations were of any avail. The Englishmen knelt down in front of him to show him what he must do. They explained, they persuaded, until they were worn out. It was all in vain. The Powhatan remained as stolid as a mule. Kneel he would not.
So at length, seeing nothing else for it, three of them took the crown in their hands, and the others pressed with all their weight upon the Powhatan's shoulders so that they forced him to stoop a little, and thus, amid howls of laughter, the crown was hastily thrust on his head. As soon as it was done the soldiers fired a volley in honour of the occasion. At the sound the newly-crowned monarch started up in terror, casting aside the men who held him. But when he saw that no one was killed, and that those around him were laughing, he soon recovered from his fright. And thanking them gravely for their presents he pompously handed his old shoes and his raccoon cloak to Captain Newport as a present for King James. Thus this strangest of all coronations came to an end.
This senseless ceremony did no good, but rather harm. The Powhatan had resisted being crowned with all his might, but afterwards he was much puffed up about it, and began to think much more of himself, and much less of the white people.
Among others, Smith thought it was nothing but a piece of tomfoolery and likely to bring trouble ere long.
For some months now he had been President, and as President he wrote to the London Company, "For the coronation of Powhatan," he said, "by whose advice you sent him such presents I know not, but this give me leave to tell you, I fear they will be the confusion of us all, ere we hear from you again."
Smith told the Company other plain truths. They had been sending out all sorts of idle fine gentlemen who had never done a day's work in their lives. They could not fell a tree, and when they tried the axe blistered their tender fingers. Some of them worked indeed cheerfully enough, but it took ten of them to do as much work as one good workman. Others were simply stirrers up of mischief. One of these Smith now sent back to England "lest the company should cut his throat." And Smith begged the Company to keep those sort of people at home in the future, and send him carpenters and gardeners, blacksmiths and masons, and people who could do something.
Captain Newport now sailed home, and Smith was left to govern the colony and find food for the many hungry mouths. He went as usual to trade with the Indians. But he found them no longer willing to barter their corn for a little copper or a handful of beads. They now wanted swords and guns. The Powhatan too grew weary of seeing the Pale-faces squatting on the land of which he was crowned king. He forgot his vows of friendship With Smith. All he wanted was to see the Palefaces leave his country. And the best way to get rid of them was to starve them.
But although the Powhatan had grown tired of seeing the Pale-faces stride like lords through his land, he yet greatly admired them. And now he wanted more than anything else to have a house, a palace as it seemed to him, with windows and fireplaces like those they built for themselves at Jamestown. For in the little native houses which his followers could build there was no room for the splendid furniture which had been sent to him for his coronation. So now he sent to Smith asking him to send white men to build a house. Smith at once sent some men to begin the work, and soon followed with others.
On their way to the Powhatan's town Smith and his companions stopped a night with another friendly chief who warned them to beware of the Powhatan.
"You will find him use you well," he said. "But trust him not. And be sure he hath no chance to seize your arms. For he hath sent for you only to cut your throats."
However in spite of this warning Smith decided to go on. So he thanked the friendly chief for his good counsel, and assuring him that he would love him always for it, he went on his way.
It was winter time now, and the rivers were half frozen over, the land was covered with snow, and icy winds blew over it. Indeed the weather was so bad that for a week Smith and his men could not go on, but had to take refuge with some friendly Indians. Here in the warm wigwams they were cosy and jolly. The savages treated them kindly, and fed them well on oysters, fish, game and wild-fowl. Christmas came and went while they were with these kindly savages, and at length, the weather becoming a little better, they decided to push on. After many adventures they reached the Powhatan's village. They were very weary from their long cold journey, and taking possession of the first houses they came to they sent a message to the Powhatan, telling him that they had come, and asking him to send food.
This the old chief immediately did, and soon they were dining royally on bread, venison and turkeys. The next day, too, the Powhatan sent them supplies of food. Then he calmly asked how long they were going to stay, and when they would be gone.
At this Smith was greatly astonished, for had not the Powhatan sent for him?
"I did not send for you," said the wily old savage, "and if you have come for corn I have none to give you, still less have my people. But," he added slyly, "if perchance you have forty swords I might find forty baskets of corn in exchange for them."
"You did not send for me?" said Smith in astonishment. "How can that be? For I have with me the messengers you sent to ask me to come, and they can vouch for the truth of it. I marvel that you can be so forgetful."
Then, seeing that he could not fool the Pale-faces the old chief laughed merrily, pretending that he had only been joking. But still he held to it that he would give no corn except in exchange for guns and swords.
"Powhatan," answered Smith, "believing your promises to satisfy my wants, and out of love to you I sent you my men for your building, thereby neglecting mine own needs. Now by these strange demands you think to undo us and bring us to want indeed. For you know well as I have told you long ago of guns and swords I have none to spare. Yet steal from you or wrong you I will not, nor yet break that friendship which we have promised each other, unless by bad usage you force me thereto."
When the Powhatan heard Smith speak thus firmly he pretended to give way and promised that within two days the English should have all the corn he and his people could spare. But he added, "My people fear to bring you corn seeing you are all armed, for they say you come not hither for trade, but to invade my country and take possession of it. Therefore to free us of this fear lay aside your weapons, for indeed here they are needless, we being all friends."
With such and many more cunning words the Powhatan sought to make Captain Smith and his men lay aside their arms. But to all his persuasions Smith turned a deaf ear.
"Nay," he said, "we have no thought of revenge or cruelty against you. When your people come to us at Jamestown we receive them with their bows and arrows. With you it must be the same. We wear our arms even as our clothes."
So seeing that he could not gain his end, the old chief gave in. Yet one more effort he made to soften the Englishman's heart.
"I have never honoured any chief as I have you," he said, with a sigh, "yet you show me less kindness than any one. You call me father, but you do just as you like."
Smith, however, would waste no more time parleying, and gave orders for his men to fetch the corn. But while he was busy with this the Powhatan slipped away and gathered his warriors. Then suddenly in the midst of their business Smith and one or two others found themselves cut off from their comrades, and surrounded by a yelling crowd of painted savages. Instantly the Englishmen drew their swords and, charging into the savages, put them to flight. Seeing how easily their warriors had been routed and how strong the Pale-faces were, the savage chiefs tried to make friends with them again, pretending that the attack upon them was a mistake, and that no evil against them had been intended.
The Englishmen, however, put no more trust in their words and sternly, with loaded guns and drawn swords in hand, bade them to talk no more, but make haste and load their boat with corn. And so thoroughly cowed were the savages by the fierce words and looks of the Pale-faces that they needed no second bidding. Hastily laying down their bows and arrows they bent their backs to the work, their one desire now being to get rid as soon as possible of these fierce and powerful intruders.
When the work was done, however, it was too late to sail that night, for the tide was low. So the Englishmen returned to the house in which they lodged, to rest till morning and wait for high water.
Meanwhile the Powhatan had by no means given up his desire for revenge, and while the Englishmen sat by their fire he plotted to slay them all. But as he talked with his braves Pocahontas listened. And when she heard that the great Pale-face Chief whom she loved so dearly was to be killed, her heart was filled with grief, and she resolved to save him. So silently she slipped out into the dark night and, trembling lest she should be discovered, was soon speeding through the wild lonesome forest towards the Englishmen's hut. Reaching it in safety she burst in upon them as they sat in the firelight waiting for the Powhatan to send their supper.
"You must not wait," she cried, "you must go at once. My father is gathering all his force against you. He will indeed send you a great feast, but those who bring it have orders to slay you, and any who escape them he is ready with his braves to slay. Oh, if you would live you must flee at once," and as she spoke the tears ran down her cheeks.
The Englishmen were truly grateful to Pocahontas for her warning. They thanked her warmly, and would have laden her with gifts of beads and coloured cloth, and such things as the Indians delighted in, but she would not take them.
"I dare not take such things," she said. "For if my father saw me with them he would know that I had come here to warn you, and he would kill me." So with eyes blinded with tears, and her heart filled with dread, she slipped out of the fire-lit hut, and vanished into the darkness of the forest as suddenly and silently as she had come.
Left alone, the Englishmen, cocking their guns and drawing their swords, awaited the coming of the foe. Presently eight or ten lusty fellows arrived, each bearing a great platter of food steaming hot and excellent to smell. They were very anxious that the Englishmen should at once lay aside their arms and sit down to supper. But Captain Smith would take no chances. Loaded gun in hand he stood over the messengers and made them taste each dish to be certain that none of them were poisoned. Having done this he sent the men away. "And bid your master make haste," he said, "for we are ready for him."
Then the Englishmen sat down to supper; but they had no thought of sleep and all night long they kept watch.
Powhatan too kept watch, and every now and again he would send messengers to find out what the Englishmen were about. But each time they came the savages found the Englishmen on guard, so they dared not attack. At last day dawned, and with the rising tide the Englishmen sailed away, still to all seeming on friendly terms with the wily Indians.
Smith had now food enough to keep the colony from starvation for a short time at least. But his troubles were by no means over. The Indians were still often unfriendly, and the colonists themselves lazy and unruly. Some indeed worked well and cheerfully, but many wandered about idly, doing nothing.
At length it came about that thirty or forty men did all the work, the others being simply idle loiterers. Seeing this, Smith called all the colonists together one day and told them that he would suffer the idleness no longer. "Every one must do his share," he said, "and he who will not work shall not eat." And so powerful had he grown that he was obeyed. The idle were forced to work, and soon houses were built and land cleared and tilled.
At length there seemed good hope that the colony would prosper. But now another misfortune befell it. For it was found that rats had got into the granaries and eaten nearly all the store of corn. So once again expeditions set forth to visit the Indians and gather more from them. But their supply, too, was running short; harvest was still a long way off, and all the colonists could collect was not enough to keep them from starvation. So seeing this Smith divided his men into companies, sending some down the river to fish, and others into the woods to gather roots and wild berries. But the lazy ones liked this little. They would have bartered away their tools and firearms to the savages for a few handfuls of meal rather than work so hard. They indeed became so mutinous that Smith hardly knew what to do with them. But at length he discovered the ringleader of these "gluttonous loiterers." Him he "worthily punished," and calling the others together, he told them very plainly that any man among them who did not do his share should be banished from the fort as a drone, till he mended his ways or starved.
To the idlers Smith seemed a cruel task-master; still they obeyed him. So the colony was held together, although in misery and hunger and without hope for the future.
At length one day to the men on the river there came a joyful sight. They saw a ship slowly sailing towards them. They could hardly believe their eyes, for no ship was expected; but they greeted it with all the more joy. It was a ship under Captain Samuel Argall, come, it is true, not to bring supplies, but to trade. Finding, however, that there was no hope of trade Captain Argall shared what food he had with the famished colonists, and so for a time rescued them from starvation. He also brought the news that more ships were setting out from home bringing both food and men.
In June, 1609, this fleet of nine ships really did set out. But one ship was wrecked on the way, another, the Sea Venture, was cast ashore on the Bermudas; only seven arrived at length at Jamestown, bringing many new colonists. Unfortunately among these new arrivals there were few likely to make good colonists. They were indeed for the most part wild, bad men whose friends had packed them off to that distant land in the hope of being rid of them forever. "They were," said one of the old colonists who wrote of them, "ten times more fit to spoil a Commonwealth than either to begin one or but help to maintain one."
Now with all these "unruly gallants" poured into his little commonwealth Smith found his position of President even more difficult than before. Still, for a time, if he could not keep them altogether in order he at least kept them in check.
Then one day by a terrible accident his rule was brought to a sudden end. He was returning from an expedition up the James River when, through some carelessness, a bag of gunpowder in his boat was exploded. Smith was not killed by it, but he was sorely hurt. In great pain, and no longer able to think and act for others, he was carried back to Jamestown.
Here there was no doctor of any kind, and seeing himself then only a useless hulk, and in danger of death, Smith gave up his post, and leaving the colony, for which during two and a half years he had worked and thought and fought so hard, he sailed homeward.
Many of the unruly sort were glad to see him go, but his old companions with whom he had shared so many dangers and privations were filled with grief. "He ever hated baseness, sloth, pride and indignity," said one of them. "He never allowed more for himself than for his soldiers with him. Upon no danger would he send them where he would not lead them himself. He would never see us want what he either had or could by any means get us. He loved action more than words, and hated falsehood and covetousness worse than death."
So, loved and hated, but having all unknown to himself made a name which would live forever in the history of his land, the first great Virginian sailed from its shores. He returned no more. Some twenty years later he died in London, and was buried in the church of St. Sepulchre there. Upon his tomb was carved a long epitaph telling of his valiant deeds. But in, the great Fire of London the tomb was destroyed, and now no tablet marks the resting-place of the brave old pioneer.
Chapter 15 - How the Colony was Saved
After Smith left, the colony of Jamestown fell into wild disorder. Every one wanted to go his own way. A new President named Percy had indeed been chosen. But although an honest gentleman he was sickly and weak, and quite unfit to rule these turbulent spirits. So twenty or more would-be presidents soon sprang up, and in the whole colony there was neither obedience nor discipline.
No work was done, food was recklessly wasted, and very quickly famine stared the wretched colonists in the face. The terrible time afterwards known as the Starving Time had begun. When their stores were gone the settlers tried to get more in the old way from the natives. But they, seeing the miserable plight of the Pale-faces, became insolent in their demands, and in return for niggardly supplies of food exacted guns and ammunition, swords and tools.
And now there was no man among the colonists who knew how to manage the Indians as Smith had managed them. There was no man among them who thought of the future. All they wanted was to stay for a time the awful pangs of hunger. So they bartered away their muskets and powder, their tools, and everything of value of which they were possessed. But even so the food the Indians gave them in return was not enough to keep body and soul together.
The colony became a place of horror, where pale skeleton-like creatures roamed about eyeing each other suspiciously, ready to kill each other for a crust or a bone. They quarreled among themselves, and they quarreled with the natives. And the natives, now no longer filled with awe, lay in wait for them and killed them almost without resistance if they ventured to crawl beyond the walls of the fort. Many more died of hunger and of disease brought on by hunger.
So less than eight months after Smith had sailed away, of the five hundred men he had left behind him but sixty remained alive. The colony was being wiped out, and the little town itself was disappearing; for the starving wretches had no strength or energy to fell trees and hew wood, and as soon as a man died his house was pulled down by his comrades and used as firewood. Already, too, weeds and briers overgrew the land which had been cleared for corn. Greater misery and desolation it is hard to imagine. Yet the unhappy beings sank into a still deeper horror. Unable to relieve the pangs of hunger, they turned cannibal and fed upon each other. Thus the last depths of degradation were sounded, the last horrors of the Starving Time were reached.
Then at length one May day two ships came sailing up the James River and anchored in the harbour. From their decks bronzed men in patched and ragged garments looked with astonished eyes upon the desolate scene.
These were the men of the wrecked Sea Venture, who had been cast ashore upon the Bermudas. Their ship had gone down, but they had been able to save both themselves and nearly everything out of her. Some of the best men of the expedition had sailed in the Sea Venture. Their leaders were brave and energetic; so instead of bemoaning their fate they had set to work with right good will, and after ten months' labour had succeeded in building two little ships which they named the Patience and the Deliverance. Then, having filled them with such stores as they could muster, they set sail joyfully to join their comrades at Jamestown. But now what horror and astonishment was theirs! They had hoped to find a flourishing town, surrounded by well tilled fields. Instead they saw ruins and desolation. They had hoped to be greeted joyfully by stalwart, prosperous Englishmen. Instead a few gaunt, hollow-cheeked spectres, who scarce seemed men, crawled to meet them.
Lost in amazement the newcomers landed, and as they listened to the tragic tale pity filled their hearts. They gave the starving wretches food, and comforted them as best they could. They had no great stores themselves, and they saw at once that with such scant supplies as they had it would be impossible to settle at Jamestown.
Even if they could get through the summer, the autumn would bring no relief, for the fields, where the corn for the winter's use should already have been sprouting, lay neglected and overgrown with weeds and briers. The houses where the newcomers might have lodged had disappeared. The very palisading which surrounded the settlement as a bulwark against the Indians had been pulled down for firewood. All the tools and implements which might have been used to rebuild the place had been bartered away to the Indians. The Indians themselves were no longer friendly, but hostile. Whichever way they looked only misery and failure stared them in the face.
The Captains of the Patience and Deliverance talked long together, but even they could see no ray of hope. So with heavy hearts they resolved once more to abandon Virginia. They were loath indeed to come to this decision, loath indeed to own themselves defeated. But there seemed no other course left open to them.
So one day early in June the pitiful remnant of the Jamestown Colony went on board the two waiting ships. Sir Thomas Gates, the brave and wise captain of the expedition, was the last to leave the ruined town. With backward looks he left it, and ere he weighed anchor he fired a last salute to the lost colony. Then the sails were set, and the two little ships drifted down stream towards the open sea, carrying the beaten settlers back to old England.
Another attempt to plant a New England beyond the seas had failed.
But next day as the little ships dropped down stream the sailors on the lookout saw a boat being rowed towards them. Was it an Indian canoe? Did it come in peace or war? It drew nearer. Then it was seen that it was no Indian canoe, but an English tug boat manned by English sailors. With a shout they hailed each other, and news was exchanged. Wonderful news it was to which the brokenhearted colonists listened.
Lord Delaware, the new Governor of Virginia, had arrived. His three good ships, well stored with food and all things necessary for the colony, were but a little way down stream. There was no need for the settlers to flee home to escape starvation and death.
It may be that to some this news was heavy news. It may be that some would gladly have turned their backs forever upon the spot where they had endured so much misery. But for the most part the colonists were unwilling to own defeat, and they resolved at once to return. So the ships were put about, and three days after they had left Jamestown, as they believed forever, the colonists once more landed there.
As Lord Delaware stepped on shore he fell upon his knees giving thanks to God that he had come in time to save Virginia. After that the chaplain preached a sermon, then the new Governor, with all his company about him, read aloud the commission given to him by King James.
This was the first royal commission ever given to a governor of an English colony in America. In it Lord Delaware was given the power of life and death over "all and every person and persons now inhabiting, or which shall hereafter inhabit within the precincts of the said colony." The colonists were in fact to be his subjects. And having read aloud his commission, and having thus as it were shown his authority, Lord Delaware next spoke sternly to his new subjects. He warned them that he would no longer endure their sluggish idleness or haughty disobedience. And if they did not amend their ways they might look to it that the most severe punishment of the law would come upon them. Having thus spoken his mind plainly, to cheer them he told of the plentiful and good stores he had brought with him, of which all those who worked well and faithfully should have a share.
Now a new life began for the colony. All the settlers were made to work for some hours every day. Even the gentlemen among them, "whose breeding never knew what a day's labour meant," had to do their share. Soon the houses were rebuilt, the palisades stood again in place, two forts were erected to guard against attacks by the Indians, and at length the colony seemed to be on the fair way to success.
Of course this did not all happen at once. The idlers were not easily turned into diligent workers, or unruly brawlers into peaceful citizens. Indeed it was only through most stern, and what would seem to us now most cruel punishments, that the unruly were forced to keep the law.
The winter after Lord Delaware came out as Governor, although not so hard as that of the Starving Time, was yet severe, and many of the colonists died. Lord Delaware, too, became so ill that in the spring he sailed home to England, and after a little time Sir Thomas Dale took his place as Deputy Governor.
Sir Thomas Dale was both a soldier and a statesman. He was full of energy and courage. Far-seeing and dogged, he was merciless to the evildoers, yet kindly to those who tried to do well. Under his stern yet righteous rule the colony prospered.
At first only men settlers had come out, then one or two women joined them, and now many more women came, so that the men, instead of all living together, married and had homes of their own. Then, too, at first all a man's labour went into the common stock, and the men who worked little fared as well as those who worked a great deal. So the lazy fellow did as little as he could. "Glad when he could slip from his labour," says an old writer, "or slumber over his task he cared not how."
Thus most of the work of the colony was left to the few who were industrious and willing. Sir Thomas Dale changed that. In return for a small yearly payment in corn he gave three acres of land to every man who wished it, for his own use. So, suddenly, a little community of farmers sprang up. Now that the land was really their own, to make of it what they would, each man tilled it eagerly, and soon such fine crops of grain were raised that the colony was no longer in dread of starvation. The settlers, too, began to spread and no longer kept within the palisade round Jamestown, "more especially as Jamestown," says an old writer, "was scandalised for an unhealthy aire." And here and there further up the river little villages sprang up.
Since Smith had gone home the Indians had remained unfriendly, and a constant danger to the colonists. And now as they became thus scattered the danger from the Indians became ever greater. Old Powhatan and his men were constantly making raids upon the Pale-faces with whom he had once been so friendly. And in spite of the watch they kept he often succeeded in killing them or taking them prisoner. He had also by now quite a store of swords, guns and tools stolen from the English. And how to subdue him, or force him to live on friendly terms with them once more, none knew.
Pocahontas, who had been so friendly and who had more than once saved the Pale-faces from disaster, might have helped them. But she now never came near their settlement; indeed she seemed to have disappeared altogether. So the English could get no aid from her.
But now it happened one day that one of the adventurers, Samuel Argall, who was, it is written, "a good Marriner, and a very civil gentleman," went sailing up the Appomattox in search of corn for the settlement. He had to go warily because no one could tell how the Indians would behave, for they would be friends or foes just as it suited them. If they got the chance of killing the Pale-faces and stealing their goods they would do so. But if they were not strong enough to do that they would willingly trade for the coloured cloths, beads and hatchets they so much wanted.
Presently Argall came to the country of one of the chiefs with whom he had made friends. While here he was told that Pocahontas, the great Powhatan's daughter, was living with the tribe. As soon as he heard this Captain Argall saw at once that here was a means of forcing the Powhatan to make peace, and he resolved at all costs to get possession of Pocahontas. So sending for the chief he told him he must bring Pocahontas on board his ship.
But the chief was afraid and refused to do this.
"Then we are no longer brothers and friends," said Argall.
"My father," said the chief, "be not wroth. For if I do this thing the Powhatan will make war upon me and upon my people."
"My brother," said Argall," have no fear; if so be that the Powhatan shall make war upon you I will join with you against him to overthrow him utterly. I mean, moreover, no manner of hurt to Pocahontas, but will only keep her as hostage until peace be made between the Powhatan and the Pale-faces. If therefore you do my bidding I will give to you the copper kettle which you desire so much."
Now the chief longed greatly to possess the copper kettle. So he promised to do as Argall asked, and began to cast about for an excuse for getting Pocahontas on board. Soon he fell upon a plan. He bade his wife pretend that she was very anxious to see the Englishman's ship. But when she asked to be taken on board he refused to go with her. Again and again she asked. Again and again the chief refused. Then the poor lady wept with disappointment and at length the chief, pretending to be very angry, swore that he would beat her if she did not cease her asking and her tears. But as she still begged and wept he said he would take her if Pocahontas would go too.
To please the old woman Pocahontas went. Captain Argall received all three very courteously, and made a great feast for them in his cabin. The old chief, however, was so eager to get his promised kettle that he could little enjoy the feast, but kept kicking Captain Argall under the table as much as to say, "I have done my part, now you do yours."
At length Captain Argall told Pocahontas that she must stay with him until peace was made between her father and the white men. As soon as the old chief and his wife heard that they began to howl, and cry, and make a great noise, so as to pretend that they knew nothing about the plot. Pocahontas too began to cry. But Argall assured her that no harm was intended her, and that she need have no fear. So she was soon comforted and dried her eyes.
As for the wily old Indians they were made quite happy with the copper kettle and a few other trifles, and went merrily back to the shore.
A messenger was then sent to the Powhatan telling him that his daughter, whom he loved so dearly, was a prisoner, and that he could only ransom her by sending back all the Pale-faces he held prisoner, with all their guns, swords and tools which he had stolen.
When Powhatan got this news he was both angry and sorry. For he loved his daughter very dearly, but he loved the Englishmen's tools and weapons almost more. He did not know what to do, so for three months he did nothing. Then at last he sent back seven of his prisoners, each one carrying a useless gun.
"Tell your chieftain," he said, "that all the rest of the arms of the Pale-faces are lost, or have been stolen from me. But if the Pale-faces will give back my daughter I will give satisfaction for all the other things I have taken, together with five hundred bushels of corn, and will make peace forever."
But the Englishmen were not easily deceived. They returned a message to the chief saying, "Your daughter is well used. But we do not believe the rest of our arms are either lost or stolen, and therefore until you send them we will keep your daughter."
The Powhatan was so angry when he got this message that for a long time he would have no further dealings with the Pale-faces, but continued to vex and harass them as much as he could.
At length Sir Thomas Dale, seeking to put an end to this, took Pocahontas, and with a hundred and fifty men sailed up the river to the Powhatan's chief town.
As soon as the savages saw the white men they came down to the river's bank, jeering at them and insulting them, haughtily demanding why they had come.
"We have brought the Powhatan's daughter," replied the Englishmen. "For we are come to receive the ransom promised, and if you do not give it willingly we will take it by force."
But the savages were not in the least afraid at that threat. They jeered the more.
"If so be," they cried, "that you are come to fight you are right welcome, for we are ready for you. But we advise you, if you love your lives, to retire with haste. Else we will serve you as we have served others of your countrymen."
"Oh," answered the Englishmen, "we must have a better answer than that," and driving their ship nearer to the shore they made ready to land.
But as soon as they were within bow shot the savages let fly their arrows. Thick and fast they fell, rattling on the deck, glancing from the men's armour, wounding not a few. This reception made the Englishmen angry, so without more ado they launched their boats and made for the shore. The savages fled at their coming, and so enraged were the colonists against them that they burned their houses, and utterly destroyed their town. Then they sailed on up the river in pursuit of the Redmen.
Next day they came up again with the savages. They were now not so insolent and sent a messenger to ask why the Pale-faces had burned their town.
"Why did you fire upon us?" asked the Englishmen, sternly.
"Brothers," replied the Redmen, "we did not fire upon you. It was but some stray savages who did so. We intend you no hurt and are your friends."
With these and many other fair words they tried to pacify the Pale-faces. So the Englishmen, who had no wish to fight, made peace with them. Then the Indians sent a messenger to the Powhatan who was a day's journey off; and the Englishmen were told they must wait two days for his answer.
Meanwhile the Englishmen asked to see their comrades whom the Indians had taken prisoner.
"We cannot show them to you," replied the wily Redmen, "for they have all run away in fear lest you should hang them. But the Powhatan's men are pursuing after them, and will doubtless bring them back."
"Then where are the swords and guns which you have stolen from us?" demanded the Englishmen.
"These you shall have to-morrow," replied the Redmen.
But, as the Englishmen well knew, this was all idle talk and deceit, and next day no message came from the Powhatan, neither were any swords nor guns forthcoming. So once more the Englishmen set sail and went still further up the river.
Here quite close to another village belonging to the Powhatan they came upon four hundred Indians in war paint. When they saw the Englishmen the Indians yelled and danced, and dared them to come ashore. This the Englishmen, nothing daunted, accordingly did. The Redmen on their side showed no fear, but walked boldly up and down among the Englishmen, demanding to speak with their captain.
So the chiefs were brought to Sir Thomas.
"Why do you come against us thus?" they asked. "We are friends and brothers. Let us not fight until we have sent once again to our King to know his pleasure. Then if he sends not back the message of peace we will fight you and defend our own as best we may."
The Englishmen knew well that by all this talk of peace the Indians wanted but to gain time so that they might be able to carry away and hide their stores. Still they had no desire to fight if by any other means they might gain their end. So they promised a truce until noon the day following. "And if we then decide to fight you, you shall be warned of it by the sounding of our drums and trumpets," they said.
The truce being settled Pocahontas' two brothers came on board the Englishmen's ships to visit their sister. And when they saw that she was well cared for, and appeared to be quite happy they were very glad, for they had heard that she was ill treated and most miserable. But finding her happy they promised to persuade their father to ransom her, and make friends again with the Pale-faces.
Seeing them thus friendly Sir Thomas suggested that Pocahontas' two brothers should stay on board his vessel as hostages while he sent two of his company to parley with the Powhatan. This was accordingly done, and Master John Rolfe and Master Sparkes set off on their mission. When, however, they reached the village where the Powhatan was hiding they found him still in high dudgeon, and he refused to see them, or speak with them. So they had to be content with seeing his brother, who treated them with all courtesy and kindness and promised to do his best to pacify the Powhatan.
It was now April, and high time for the colonists to be back on their farms sowing their corn. So with this promise they were fain to be content in the meantime. And having agreed upon a truce until harvest time they set sail once more for Jamestown, taking Pocahontas with them.
One at least among the company of Englishmen was glad that the negotiations with the Powhatan had come to nothing, and that Pocahontas had not been ransomed. That was Master John Rolfe. For Pocahontas, although a savage, was beautiful and kind, and John Rolfe had fallen madly in love with her. So he had no desire that she should return to her own tribe, but rather that she should return to Jamestown and marry him.
Pocahontas, too, was quite fond of John Rolfe, although she had never forgotten her love for the great White Chief whose life she had saved. The Englishmen, however, told her that he had gone away never to come back any more, and that very likely he was dead. Pocahontas was then easily persuaded to marry John Rolfe. But he himself, although he loved her very much, had some misgivings. For was this beautiful savage not a heathen?
That difficulty was, however, soon overcome. For Pocahontas made no objection to becoming a Christian. So one day there was a great gathering in the little church at Jamestown when the heathen princess stood beside the fort, and the water of Christian baptism was sprinkled on her dark face, and she was given the Bible name of Rebecca.
And now when the Powhatan heard that his daughter was going to marry one of the Pale-faces he was quite pleased. He forgot all his anger and sulkiness, sent many of his braves to be present at the wedding, and swore to be the friend and brother of the Pale-faces forever more.
Sir Thomas Dale was delighted. So every one was pleased, and one morning early in April three hundred years ago all the inhabitants of the country round, both Redman and White, gathered to see the wedding. And from that day for eight years, as long as the Powhatan lived, there was peace between him and his brothers, the Pale-faces.
Chapter 16 - How Pocahontas Took a Journey Over the Seas
At peace with the Indians, the colonists could till their fields without fear of attack. And now, besides corn, they began to grow tobacco.
You remember that Columbus had noticed how the natives of his "India" smoked rolled-up dried leaves. But, no one paid much attention to it. Then the men of Raleigh's expedition again noticed it. They tried it themselves, found it comforting, and brought both tobacco and the habit home with them. And soon not only the seafaring adventurers but many a man who was never likely to see the ocean, or adventure beyond his native town, had taken to smoking. That, too, despite his king's disgust at it. For James thought smoking was "a custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black smoking fumes thereof nearest resembling the horrible Stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless." He indeed wrote a little book against it, which he called "A Counterblaste to Tobacco." But no one paid much attention to him. The demand for tobacco became greater and greater, and soon the Virginian farmers found that there was a sale for as much tobacco as they could grow, and that a crop of it paid better than anything else.
Up till now the colony had. been a constant disappointment to the "adventurers" - that is, to the people who had given the money to fit out the expeditions - the shareholders we would now call them.
Most of them had adventured their money, not with any idea of founding a New England beyond the seas where men should settle down as farmers and tillers of the soil. They had adventured it rather for the finding of gold and pearls, jewels and spices, so that it might be repaid quickly, and a hundredfold. But year by year passed, and all these glittering hopes were doomed to disappointment. No gold was found. The adventurers saw their money being swallowed up for nought. They grew discontented and grumbled, some of them refused to pay any more, refused to throw more away on an empty dream. They little knew that they were helping to found a new State which in time was to become one of the world's greatest powers. They little knew that in days to come their money should produce a harvest a thousand, thousandfold, and that from the broad land, of which they had helped to settle a tiny corner, was to come wealth such as in their wildest imaginings, they had never dreamt.
Meanwhile, anything a Virginian wanted he could buy with tobacco. Indeed, after a time the Virginians threw themselves with such complete enthusiasm into the growing of tobacco that they were reproached for neglecting everything else because of it.
The English were not the only people who had set forth to find golden wealth and broad lands beyond the seas. Both the French and the Dutch had carried their standard across the ocean, and planted it upon the further shores. Already, too, the struggle for possession began.
Captain Argall, in one of his many expeditions, sailing northward to the Bay of Fundy, found a French colony settled there. Argall swooped down upon them, and claiming the whole continent by right of Cabot's discovery, he utterly destroyed the colony, burning the houses to the ground, and carrying off the cattle.
Argall next found a Dutch colony on the Hudson River. Here he contented himself with ordering the Governor to pull down the Dutch flag and run up the English one. To save his colony the Dutchman did as he was commanded. But as soon as the arrogant Englishman was out of sight he calmly ran up his own flag once more.
Meanwhile under Sir Thomas Dale Virginia continued to prosper. Then after five years' rule Sir Thomas went home and the colony was left to a new ruler. With him went John Rolfe and his wife Pocahontas, together with their little baby son.
Now began a wonderful new life for the beautiful Indian. Only a few years before she had been a merry, little, half naked savage, turning cart wheels all over the Jamestown fort, and larking with the boys. Now she found herself treated as a great lady.
In those days the people in England had very little idea of the life out in the wilds. The Powhatan, they had heard, was a king, a sort of emperor, indeed, and they doubtless pictured him as living in a stately palace, wearing a golden crown and velvet robes. That a "king" should be a half-naked savage, living in a mud hut, wearing a crown of feathers on his head, and a string of beads about his neck, they could not imagine. As the Powhatan was a king then his daughter was a princess, and as such must be treated with all respect.
It is even said that John Rolfe was roundly scolded by King James for daring to marry a princess without first asking leave.
"For," he gravely pointed out, "if the Powhatan was a king and Pocahontas his daughter, when the Powhatan died Rolfe or his baby son might become King of Virginia. It was not meet or right that a commoner should thus lightly take upon himself to marry the daughter of a brother sovereign."
Every one, then, was ready to treat Pocahontas with deference. Besides this John Smith wrote to the Queen relating all that she had done for the Colony of Virginia and begging her to be kind to the Indian girl who had done so much for England. For that or some other reason the Queen took an interest in the little dusky Princess. Pocahontas was presented to her, and was often seen at the theatre or other entertainment with her. The ladies of the court were made to treat Pocahontas with great ceremony. They addressed her as "Princess" or "Lady," remained standing before her, and walked backwards when they left her presence; famous artists painted her portrait; poets wrote of her, and in one of his plays Ben Johnson calls her
The Blessed Pokahontas, as the historian calls her And great King's daughter of Virginia.
In fact she became the rage. She was the talk of the town. Even coffee-houses and taverns were named after her,-La Belle Sauvage (the beautiful savage). And it is interesting to remember that a great publishing house in London takes its name from one of these old taverns. Books go out to all the world from the sign of La Belle Sauvage, thus forming a link between the present and that half-forgotten American "princess" of so long ago.
In spite of all the homage and flattery poured upon her, Pocahontas yet remained modest and simple, enchanting all who met her. And among all the new delights of England she had the joy of seeing once again the great White Chief she had loved and called her father in days gone by.
Her joy was all the greater because she had believed him to be dead. When Smith first came to see her her feelings were so deep that at first she could not speak. She greeted him in silence, then suddenly turning away she hid her face and wept. But after a little she recovered herself, and began to speak of the old days, and of how she had thought he was dead. "I knew no other," she said, "until I came to Plymouth."
In many ways Pocahontas showed her joy at again recovering her old friend. But when she found that Smith was not going to treat her as an old friend, but as if she were a great lady, and call her Princess like all the others round her, she was hurt.
"You did promise the Powhatan that what was yours should be his, and he did promise the like to you," she said. "A stranger in his land you called him father, and I shall do the same by you."
"Lady," replied Smith, "I dare not allow that title, for you are a King's daughter."
But from the man who had known her in those strange, wild days in far-off Virginia, from the man she had looked upon as a great and powerful chief, Pocahontas would have no such nonsense. She laughed at him.
"You were not afraid," she said defiantly, "to come into my father's country, and cause fear in him, and in all his people save me. And fear you here that I should call you father? I tell you then I will. And you shall call me child. And so I will be forever and ever your countryman."
Pocahontas took all the strangeness of her new surroundings very simply. But some of her attendants were utterly overwhelmed with wonder and awe at the things they saw. One man in particular, who was accounted a very clever man among his own people, had been sent by the Powhatan to take particular note of everything in England. Among other things he had been charged to count the people! So on landing at Plymouth he provided himself with a long stick and proceeded to make a notch in it for every man he met. But he met so many people that he could not make notches fast enough; so in a very short time he grew weary of that and threw his stick away.
Coming to London he was more amazed than ever. Never had he seen so great a city nor so many folk all gathered together, and among them not one familiar face. So he welcomed Captain John Smith like an old friend, and eagerly questioned him as to the wonders of this strange country. More especially he asked to see God, the King and Queen, and the Prince.
Captain Smith tried as best he could to explain to the poor heathen about God, telling him He could not be seen. As, to the King, he added, "you have seen him."
"No," said the Indian, "I have not seen your great King."
Then when Captain Smith explained that the little man with a jeweled feather in his cap and sword by his side, who had one day spoken to him was the King, the Indian was much disappointed.
"You gave Powhatan a white dog," he said, "which Powhatan fed as himself. But your King gave me nothing."
However if the old Indian was disappointed with the manner in which the King had received him he was much made of by others. For every one was eager to see this wild savage. And often to please these new friends he would sing to them and make their blood creep by his wild dances.
Pocahontas loved England where she was so kindly treated. She took to the new life so well that it is said she soon "became very formal and civil after our English manner." But she who had been used to roam the wild woods could not live in the confinement of towns, and soon she became very ill. So she made up her mind at length, sorely against her will, to go back to Virginia with her husband. Captain Argall was about to return there as Deputy Governor. So Pocahontas and her husband took passages in his boat.
But Pocahontas was never again to see her native shore. She went on board Captain Argall's boat, the George, and indeed set sail from London, but before she reached Gravesend she became so ill that she had to be taken ashore, and there she died. She was buried in the chancel of the Parish Church. Later the Church was burned down, but it was rebuilt, and as a memorial to Pocahontas American ladies have placed a stained glass window there, and also a pulpit made of Virginian wood.
John Rolfe returned alone to Virginia, leaving his little son Thomas behind him in the care of an uncle. He remained in England until he was grown up, and then went to his native land. There he married, and had a daughter, and became the ancestor of several Virginian families who are to this day proud to trace their descent from beautiful Pocahontas and her English husband.
Chapter 17 - How the Redmen Fought Against Their White Brothers
The Colony of Virginia which had prospered so greatly under Sir Thomas Dale had fallen again on evil days. For Samuel Argall, who now governed, proved a tyrant. Dale had been autocratic, but he had been autocratic for the good of the colony. Argall was autocratic for his own gains. He extorted money and tribute from the colonists to make himself rich, and profits which should have gone to the company went into his pocket. Again and again the colonists sent home complaints of Argall's doings. At length these complaints became so loud and long that the company once more sent Lord Delaware out as Governor.
But on the way Lord Delaware died, and the party of settlers he was bringing out arrived without him. On their arrival Argall at once took possession of Lord Delaware's private papers, and much to his disgust he found among them one telling Lord Delaware to arrest Argall and send him back to England.
This made Argall very angry; it also made him more despotic and cruel than ever. In consequence still more bitter complaints reached home from the colonists.
At this time the company at home were quarrelling among themselves. But in the end they sent out a new Governor called Sir George Yeardley. He, too, had orders to arrest Argall and send him home. But Argall somehow came to know of it, and he made up his mind not to go home a prisoner. So before the new Governor could arrive he packed up his goods, and leaving the colony to take care of itself, sailed gaily off to England.
The Virginians now were heartily tired of despots, and thought that it was time that they had some say in the matter of governing themselves. At the head of the company at home there was at this time a wise man named Sandys. He also thought that it would be best for the colony to be self-governing.
And so on July 30th, 1619, the first General Election was held in Virginia, and the first Parliament of Englishmen in America met. There were by this time about two thousand people living in the colony, and the settlements were scattered about on both sides of the river for sixty miles or so above Jamestown. So the colony was divided into eleven parts or constituencies, each constituency sending two members to the little parliament. These members were called burgesses, and the parliament was called the House of Burgesses. But there was no special building in which the burgesses could gather, so the meetings were held in the little wooden church at Jamestown. And thus with such small beginnings were the first foundations of a free and independent nation laid. And because of the founding of this House of Burgesses 1619 stands out as the year most to be remembered in all the early days of Virginia.
But 1619 has to be remembered for another, and this time a sad reason: for it saw not only the beginnings of freedom, but the beginnings of slavery.
Just a month after the opening of the House of Burgesses a Dutch vessel anchored at Jamestown. The captain had been on a raiding expedition off the coast of Africa, and he had on board a cargo of negroes, whom he had stolen from their homes. Twenty of these he sold to the farmers. And thus slavery was first introduced upon the Virginian plantations.
In 1619, too, there arrived the first ship-load of women colonists. Nearly all the settlers were men. A few indeed had brought their wives and daughters with them, but for the most part the colony was a community of men. Among these there were many who were young, and as they grew rich and prosperous they wanted to marry and have homes of their own. But there was no one for them to marry. So at length some one at home fell upon the plan of persuading young women to go out to Virginia to settle there, and in 1619 a ship-load of ninety came out. As soon as they arrived they found many young men eager to marry them, and sometimes they must have found it difficult to make a choice. But as soon as a young man was accepted he had to pay the Company 120 Ibs., afterwards raised to 150 Ibs., of tobacco as the price of his bride's passage across the seas. Then they were free to marry as soon as they pleased.
After this from time to time women went out to the colony. Sometimes we read of "a widow and eleven maids," or again of "fifty maids for wives." And always there came with them a letter from the company at home to the old men of the colony reminding them that these young women did not come to be servants. "We pray you therefore to be fathers to them in their business, not enforcing them to marry against their wills, neither send them to be servants," they wrote. And if the girls did not marry at once they were to be treated as guests and "put to several householders that have wives till they can be provided of husbands."
Helped in this quaint fashion and in others the colony prospered and grew ever larger. It would have prospered even more had it not been for the outbreak of a kind of plague, which the colonists simply called "the sickness." It attacked chiefly the new settlers, and was so deadly that in one year a thousand of them died. Doctors were not very skilful in those days, and although they did their best, all their efforts were of little use, till at length the dread disease wore itself out.
But in spite of all difficulties the colony grew, the settlements extended farther and farther in a long line up and down both banks of the James from Chesapeake Bay to what is now Richmond. Had the Indians been unfriendly, the colony could not have stretched out in this fashion without great danger to the settlers. But for eight years the Redmen had been at peace with their white brothers, and the settlers had lost all fear of attack from them. The Indians, indeed, might be seen wandering freely about the towns and farms. They came into the houses, and even shared the meals of the farmer and his household. Nothing, to all outward seeming, could be more friendly than the relations between the Redmen and the settlers.
Then after eight years, old Powhatan, the father of Pocahontas, died, and his brother became chief of the tribe. It may be that this new chief was known not to be so friendly to the Pale-faces as his brother had been. In any case the Governor took the precaution of sending a messenger to him with renewed expressions of friendship.
Opekankano received the messenger kindly and sent him back to his master. "Tell the Pale-faces," he said, "that I hold the peace so sure that the skies shall fall sooner than it should be broken."
But at this very time he and his people were plotting utterly to destroy the settlers. Yet they gave no hint of it. They had planned a general massacre, yet two days before the 22nd of March, the day fixed for it, some settlers were safely guided through the woods by the Indians. They came as usual, quite unarmed, into the settlers' houses, selling game, fish and furs in exchange for glass beads and such trifles. Even on the night of the 21st of March they borrowed the settlers' boats so that many of their tribe could get quickly across the river. Next morning in many places the Indians were sitting at breakfast with the settlers and their families when suddenly, as at a given signal, they sprang up, and, seizing the settlers own weapons, killed them all, sparing neither men, women nor children. So sudden was the onslaught that many a man fell dead without a cry, seeing not the hand which smote him. In the workshops, in the fields, in the gardens, wherever they were, wherever their daily work took them, they were thus suddenly and awfully struck down.
For days and weeks the Indians had watched the habits of the settlers until they knew the daily haunts of every man. Then they had planned one swift and deadly blow which was to wipe out the whole colony. And so cunning was their plot, so complete and perfect their treachery, that they might have succeeded but for the love of one faithful Indian. This Indian, named Chanco, lived with one of the settlers named Pace, and had become his servant. But Pace treated him more as a son than as a servant, and the Indian had become very devoted to him. When, then, this Indian was told that his chief commanded him to murder his master he felt that he could not do it. Instead, he went at once to Pace and told him of the plot. Pace then made ready to defend himself, and sent warnings to all the other settlers within reach. Thus a great many of the colonists were saved from death, but three hundred and fifty were cruelly slain.
This sudden and treacherous attack, after so many years of peace, enraged the white men, and they followed the Redmen with a terrible vengeance. They hunted them like wild beasts, tracking them down with bloodhounds, driving them mercilessly from place to place, until, their corn destroyed, their houses burned, their canoes smashed to splinters, the Indians were fain to sue for mercy, and peace once more was restored for more than twenty years.
Chapter 18 - How Englishmen Fought a Duel With Tyranny
At last Virginia prospered. But while it prospered the man who had first conceived the idea of this New England beyond the seas had fallen on evil days. Sir Walter Raleigh had been thrown into prison by King James. There for twelve long years he languished, only to be set free at length on condition that he should find a gold-mine for his King. He failed to find the mine, and by his efforts only succeeded in rousing to greater heights than before the Spanish hatred against him. For Spain claimed the land and gold of which Raleigh had gone in search. And now the King of Spain demanded that he should be punished. And James, weakly yielding to his outcry, condemned Sir Walter to death. So on 29th of October, 1618, this great pioneer laid his head upon the block, meeting death as gallantly as ever man died.
"I shall yet live to see it (Virginia) an English nation," he had said, after his own fifth failure to found a colony, and his words had come true. But long ere his death Raleigh had ceased to have any connection with Virginia. And perhaps there was scarce a man among those who had made their homes there who remembered that it was Raleigh who had prepared the way, that but for Raleigh a new Spain and not a New England might have been planted on the American shores.
So the death of Raleigh made no difference to the fortunes of Virginia. But the same stupidity, that same "wonderful instinct for the wrong side of every question" which made James kill his great subject, also made him try to stifle the infant colony. So while in spite of sickness and massacre the colony prospered, the company at home was passing through strenuous times. The head or treasurer of the company was still that Sir Edwin Sandys who had been the chief mover in giving the colony self-government. King James, who was full of great ideas about the divine right of kings, had never forgiven him that. He was as eager as any of his people to build up a colonial Empire, but he desired that it should be one which should be dependent on himself. He had no intention of allowing colonies to set themselves up against him.
Now the time came to elect a new treasurer, and the company being very pleased with Sandys, decided to elect him again. But when King James heard that, he was very angry. He called the company a school of treason and Sandys his greatest enemy. Then, flinging himself out of the room in a terrible passion, he shouted "Choose the Devil if you will, but not Sir Edwin Sandys."
Still in spite of the King's anger the company decided to go its own way. They had their charter sealed with the King's seal, signed with the King's name, which gave them the right of freely electing their own officers, and not even the King should be allowed to interfere with that right.
On the day of the election nearly five hundred of the "adventurers" gathered together. Three names were put up for election, Sir Edwin's heading the list. But just as the voting was about to begin a messenger from the King arrived.
"It is not the King's pleasure that Sir Edward Sandys should be chosen," he said, "so he has sent to you a list of four, one of which you may choose."
At this, dead silence fell upon the company, every man lost in amazement at this breach of their charter. For minutes the heavy silence lasted. Then there arose murmurs which grew ever louder until amid cries of anger it was proposed to turn the King's messengers out.
"No," said the Earl of Southampton, "let the noble gentlemen keep their places. Let them stay and see that we do everything in a manner which is fair and above board. For this business is of so great concernment that it can never be too solemnly, too thoroughly or too publicly examined."
Others agreed that this was right. So the messengers stayed. Then there came impatient cries from every part of the hall, "The Charter! The Charter! God save the King!"
So the charter was brought and solemnly read.
Then the secretary stood up. "I pray you, gentlemen," he said, "to observe well the words of the charter on the point of electing a Governor. You see it is thereby left to your own free choice. This I take it is so very plain that we shall not need to say anything more about it. And no doubt these gentlemen when they depart will give his Majesty a just information of the case."
This speech was received with great noise and cheering. In the midst of it a friend of Sir Edwin's stood up and begged for silence. And when the noise had abated a little he said, "Sir Edwin asks me to say that he withdraws his name for election. I therefore propose that the King's messengers choose two names and that we choose a third. Then let all these three names be set upon the balloting box. And so go to the election in God's name. And let His will be done."
Thereupon with one voice the whole assembly cried out, "Southampton! Southampton!"
The King's messengers then pretended that they were quite pleased. "The King," they said, "had no desire to infringe their rights. He desired no more than that Sir Edwin Sandys should not be chosen."
Then they named two from the King's list, and the ballot was immediately taken; the result being that one of the King's men had two votes, the other but one, and the Earl of Southampton all the rest.
When the King heard of this result he was a little anxious and apologetic. The messengers, he said, had mistaken his intention. He had only meant to recommend his friends, and not to forbid the company to elect any other. But once again Englishmen had fought a duel with tyranny, and won.
From this day, however, the King's hatred of the company became deadly. He harassed it in every way and at last in 1624 took its charter away, and made Virginia a Crown Colony. Henceforth in theory at least self-government was taken away from Virginia, and to the King alone belonged the right of appointing the Governor and Council. But in fact the change made little difference to the colony. For in the spring of 1625 King James died, and his son Charles I, who succeeded him upon the throne, had so much else to trouble him that he paid little heed to Virginia.
Chapter 19 - The Coming of the Cavaliers
With a new King on the throne life in Virginia went on much as it had done. Governors came and went, were good or bad, strong or weak. There were troubles with the Indians, and troubles at home about the sale of tobacco; still the colony lived and prospered. The early days of struggle were over.
Virginia now was no longer looked upon as a place of exile where with luck one could make a fortune and return home to England to enjoy it. Men now began to find Virginia a pleasant place, and look upon it as their home. The great woods were full of game, the streams were full of fish, so that the Englishman could shoot and angle to his heart's content. The land was so fertile that he did not need to work half so hard to earn a living as he had to do at home; while the climate was far kindlier.
So the colony prospered. And it was to this prosperous colony that in 1642 Sir William Berkeley was appointed Governor. He was a courtly, hot-tempered, imperious gentleman, a thorough cavalier who dressed in satin and lace and ruled like a tyrant. He did not believe in freedom of thought, and he spent a good deal of time persecuting the Puritans who had found refuge in Virginia.
For just about the time of Berkeley's appointment a fierce religious war between Cavalier and Puritan was beginning in England, and already some Puritans had fled to Virginia to escape persecution at home. But Berkeley soon showed them that they had come to the wrong place and bade them "depart the Colony with all convenience."
Berkeley did not believe in freedom of thought, and he disapproved just as much of education, for that had encouraged freedom of thought. "I thank God," he said some years later, "there are no free schools in Virginia or printing, and I hope we shall not have them these hundred years. For learning has brought disobedience and heresy, and sects into the world, and printing has divulged them, and libels against the best government. God keep us from both."
In England the quarrel between King and people grew ever fiercer and more bitter. Virginia so far away heard the echo of it, and there, as in England, men took sides. The men in Virginia were ready enough to stand up to the King and speak their mind when he threatened their liberties. But when they heard that the people in England had taken the King prisoner and were talking of beheading him they were horrified. To lay bands upon his person, to lead him to the block, to take his life! That seemed to them very terrible. And when at length the news of the King's death reached Virginia the Virginians forgot their grievances, they became King's men. And Berkeley, a fervent Royalist, wrote to his brother Royalists at home asking them to come out to Virginia, there to find new homes far from the rule of the hated "usurper" Cromwell.
Many came, fleeing from their native land "in horror and despairs at the bloody and bitter stroke." Before the year was out at least a thousand Cavaliers had found a home in Virginia. They were kindly, even affectionately, received. Every house was open to them, every hand stretched out to help.
In October the House of Burgesses met and at once declared that the beheading of "the late most excellent and now undoubtedly sainted King" was treason. And if any one in Virginia dared to defend "the late traitorous proceedings against the aforesaid King of most happy memory" they too would be found guilty of treason and worthy of death. Worthy of death too should be any one who seemed by word or deed to doubt the right of "his Majesty that now is" to the Colony of Virginia. Thus Charles II, a homeless wanderer, was acknowledged King of Virginia.
In this manner did little Virginia fling down the gauntlet to Great Britain. It was a daring deed, and one not likely to go unheeded by the watchful Cromwell. Yet two years and more passed. Then British ships appeared off Jamestown. At once the Virginians made ready to resist; cannon were mounted; the gay Cavaliers turned out in force, sword by side, gun in hand. Then a little boat flying a white flag was seen to put off for the shore. It was a messenger from the British captain.
It would be much better for them, he said, to yield peacefully than to fight and be beaten. For hold out against the great strength of Britain they could not. His words had weight with the Virginians. Yet long and seriously they debated. Some would have held out, but others saw only misery and destruction in such a course. So at length they surrendered to the might of Cromwell.